Van Beek: What is normal?
It’s spring, a time of renewal, joy, and activities that generally bring happiness. Everywhere you look, there are blooming flowers, big smiles and friends speaking of vacations to fun exotic places. Yet, for some reason, you simply can’t get into the mood.
Something has occurred that you can’t quite shake. It was unexpected and caused you great personal sorrow or fear, resulting in continual stress. Sleep seems to be optional. Eating has gone haywire, with you either forgetting to eat or eating way more than you would normally, consuming too many unhealthy sweets, sometimes topped with alcohol.
You are uncharacteristically moody, snapping at people for no apparent reason. You can’t identify why you keep feeling this way. Your friends tell you to move on, keep busy, do things that bring you joy … yet, nothing does. You don’t think it’s a mental health issue, you just think you need a bit more time to recover, but it seems to be getting worse. At what point should you become concerned? Where do you turn?
You’re entering your senior year of high school. You are on the honor roll and expected to graduate and enter a highly-ranked college. Your parents have sacrificed much to bring you to this position and it’s important that you don’t let them down. Teachers are talking to you about being valedictorian.
Your sports team is expected to make the finals this year and you have a key position, so you’d better be ready and don’t get injured. Your friends want to make your senior year a one of pushing limits. You’re only young once, they say. The family business isn’t going well and you are expected to pitch in, sometimes working in the office, other times, taking care of your younger sibling. And, everyone is telling you how lucky you are to be living such a good life. What if you can’t do it all? How do you cope with the increased stress? Sometimes, you dream of how wonderful it would be to just sleep and never wake up.
Your years as a senior … a time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. You were a successful executive, had even owned several businesses. Your children grew up and set out on their own path. Some are more successful than others, but each one is very independent, pursuing careers wherever it takes them. Retirement was supposed to be a time of relaxation, pursuit of hobbies and travel, where you never previously had the time. Travel doesn’t have the same appeal and exercise has your mind taking your body to places it’s no longer prepared to go.
You find yourself discussing with friends (or even strangers) surgeries, medications, and conditions you can barely pronounce, with an array of brightly-colored pills that accompany your specialized diet. Holidays, once a time of happiness, are now lonely memories of past times.
Your children live elsewhere and your lifetime partner didn’t make it to this point and you miss their smile every day. You mentally relive the past and become increasingly sad about the present. The loneliness and pain have become all-consuming and at your age, you wonder, if perhaps it’s time to call it quits. You begin wondering how and when it will end… the clock is ticking. Perhaps the end is something you can finally control.
The war at home
Service to your country was all you ever wanted to do. You entered the military, knowing it was life-threatening, but someone needs to do it. While you thought you were prepared, nothing compares to what you experienced during war. You knew that the enemy needed to be defeated and it was a kill-or-be-killed situation, yet, you couldn’t help but think about your family and wonder about theirs.
You never imagined that there would be someone out there who would wake up that morning with the express intent to end your life. You had to defend yourself, but the pain of viewing the inhumanity of war was sometimes too much to bear. The explosions, the faces, the blood, the loss of friends, the crying children, the smoke and smell of war … all of it, is still with you today.
They call it PTSD. You were taught to suck it up. Don’t cry. Be grateful you are alive. Yet, all you feel is physical and emotional pain. You seek help with the Veterans Administration but the bureaucracy has long waits and keeps you going back with little relief. You don’t qualify for much of what you believe you need and nothing is getting better. The pain relievers aren’t strong enough to erase all that haunts you and you are tired of taking them. You begin to wonder if there is another way out of this pain.
You are not alone
Everyone goes through trauma and we all need help from time to time. It’s normal. Spring is a time of renewal, and perhaps that new beginning can be had with the help of those within our community who are specifically trained to help you through life’s roughest patches.
We are here to help. Listed below are organizations whose sole purpose is to partner with you during difficult times. Don’t give up. You are not alone.
- Hope Center: 970-306-HOPE (4673)
- Mind Springs Vail: 970-476-0930
- Mind Springs Eagle: 970-328-6969
- Mind Springs hotline: 888-207-4004
- Speak Up, Reach Out: 970-748-4410
- Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Samaritan Counseling Center: 970-926-8558
- Colorado Crisis Services 844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.